Shay Donley: “It was very aggressive, we were hitting it hard”

Posted on: July 12th, 2018

Shay Donley takes victory at the end of stage 2 on the Junior Tour of Ireland and his hopeful of more (Photo: John Hammer)




Having already won a string of races this year, Shay Donley grabbed a coveted stage victory at the Junior Tour yesterday.

He combined with his team mates to take a position at the front of the bunch deep inside the final kilometre.

And when the road opened up in front of the riders from the last corner, Donley was leading in full flight.

He sprinted in to win at the head of a 60-man bunch; the peloton halving in size a strong indication of how hard the stage had been.

It was first-year junior Donley’s sixth win of the season. And it was the biggest in the fledgling career of the 17-year-old from Ballymoney in Co Antrim.

“It was brilliant to win; it really was. I was delighted,” he said of victory into Kilkee, Co Clare.

And that stage 2 result also brought him the green points jersey. His Team Ireland team mate Cathir Doyle rode into the climbers’ jersey after an aggressive display.

The Irish riders are still chasing yellow, which remains on the shoulders of stage 1 TT winner Magus Sheffield (Hot Tubes).

With four more stages to come, and clearly sprinting well, Donley may nick another win before the week is out.

However, he said there were a lot of strong riders in the race; from home and abroad.

“It was a very aggressive race with the American riders, Hot Tubes and Specialized, trying to get away from each other,” he said of the 94km stage 2.

“And Ireland; we were hitting it hard at times too. Cathir went up the road with about 15k to go and held until 10k to go. He had about 30 seconds and he held off the bunch for a good while.”


Top down: Riding for Ireland at the European Youth Olympic Festival last year. Winning at Rás Mhaigh Eo. Victory in the Grouchos GP (Photos: Conor McKeown and Toby Watson)


When Doyle was mopped up, Team Ireland had one thing in mind; the stage win. And that meant trying to launch Donley.

He said Conor Gallagher – who also rides with him at NRPT-Chill Insurance – put in a great late effort.

“With about 5k to go, Conor sat on the front. He took me to the last corner and I took it from there,” said Donley.

“It came down this really fast descent and then took a hairpin right hander onto the seafront.

“And then it was about 200-250 metres (to the finish line). I came around that last corner first man and just wound it up and held it.”

Asked what the rest of his Junior Tour plans were, Donley said he was aiming for stage wins.

And with Cathir Doyle now in the climbers’ jersey, the Irish team hoped to hold on to that.

“I have the green jersey now too, so it’d be nice to keep that as well,” he added.

“And if we could get Conor Gallagher up the road on some of the stages… He’s a big diesel engine so he’d be able to truck on rightly.”

However, with plenty of strong riders and teams in the event “it changes the racing completely”.

“The field is huge in the Junior Tour this year; 119 riders or something. And each stage is over 90km with one over 120km.

“But most of the finishes are flat so if you can get over the hills and get into position you have a good chance.”

Riding his first season as a junior, Donley’s first weeks of the 2018 campaign were not as successful as he hoped.

However, it wasn’t long before he hit his stride; a stage win in Rás Mhaigh Eo in late March opening his account.

He would also soon win the Killinchy GP and Coombes Connor. He would then take a stage at the Kanturk Three Day and also won the Grouchos GP.

Unusually, he said a mechanical problem had hampered the early weeks of his season. And once he got it resolved the results came.

“Just before Rás Mhaigh Eo I found there was something wrong inside the bearings in my wheels.,” he explained.

“I had been racing on them in every single race since the start of the season. And that’s what was holding me back.

“So I got them changed and then the first win came at Rás Mhaigh Eo. It was really good to get that.”




He said while he moved into the junior ranks this year, he didn’t radically change his training.

“It’s just quality over quantity; doing the right stuff. And all credit for that goes to my trainer Gary McKeegan; he’s one of the most intelligent guys I know.”

After the Junior Tour he would switch his efforts to the track. He had recently been at the Team Ireland training camp in Majorca.

He would soon go back for more track preparation with the track Europeans and Worlds in mind.

Before that, however, there is the small matter of playing his part in Team Ireland putting it up to the rest between now and Sunday.